Those who arrive at Thekla can see little of the city, beyond the plank fences, the sackcloth screens, the scaffoldings, the metal armatures, the wooden catwalks hanging from ropes or supported by sawhorses, the ladders, the trestles. If you ask "Why is Thekla's construction taking such a long time?" the inhabitants continue hoisting sacks, lowering leaded strings, moving long brushes up and down, as they answer "So that it's destruction cannot begin." And if asked whether they fear that, once the scaffoldings are removed, the city may begin to crumble and fall to pieces, they add hastily, in a whisper, "Not only the city."
If, dissatisfied with the answers, someone puts his eye to a crack in a fence, he sees cranes pulling up other cranes, scaffoldings that embrace other scaffoldings, beams that prop up other beams. "What meaning does your construction have?" he asks. "What is the aim of a city under construction unless it is a city? Where is the plan you are following, the blueprint?"
"We will show it to you as soon as the working day is over; we cannot interrupt our work now," they answer.
Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. "There is the blueprint," they say.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Like the inhabitants of Thekla, one of the legendary cities that Calvino describes, Boaz Noy and Yoav Fisch build the city through the sky, the landscape, the nature, and the culture that surround it. Like them, they continue the construction, which is anchored in constant disintegration. The days of Covid have brought about a disruption of order, of culture, of freedom of movement, of human and social interaction as we know it, and of the progression of time. The gallery is closed, presenting a silent exhibition that speaks the language of the city and the language of humans, but remains hidden from view for a long time.
When the door opens, wandering through the exhibition the eye chooses to cling to the familiar image and hold on to it; a stone, a backyard you had once visited, a flag, a bus stop, a concrete wall. Images that can serve as the foundations of the pictorial or sculptural construction. Trying to decipher what is happening in our attempts to find a foothold as viewers, we will find that Fisch’s piles outline a blueprint for the starry sky in Noy’s paintings. The night lights and tree shadows in Noy’s paintings form a space, a universe that leaves room for Fisch’s concrete arch to leave its imprint. An oil painted fence meets a silicone sculptured fence, and in between the two unfolds a space where the wind blows and a dialogue about gripping and releasing takes shape.
And if it seems for a moment that the artists’ grasp is on the image or its embodiment in paint or material, a second, more careful look will reveal that they are in fact holding on to a tumultuous moment that was made possible in the space between the city and the solitary self in the studio. To the crystallization of changing moments of life, to an event that took place inside but its impact is felt outside, to the shadows that the tree casts on the half-open gate. To the absent phantom figure, the void that still holds its reshimu, to the possibility of the physical reverberation between the spectators’ bodies and the sculptures whose scale is of one of human dimensions. Meaning, they hold on precisely to the lacks and gaps between the familiar and the changing, the present and the absent. Noy and Fisch are both artists of tension and relations.
In Noy’s oil paintings, the plump, generous, wild and abstract shape is based on the identification of the signs through which the city is organized: a power pole, a bus stop, a boulevard bench, or a skyscraper. Alongside them, as though it were a living person that changes with time and the mood, the independent shape can continue to form, living and moving, become a scratch and a wipe, fall down. Drip from the painterly autonomy towards the familiar everyday realm, like a guest in the conventional time. Inner freedom that knows how to imbue a joyful and convincing ease into the tight walls of composition and perspective in which it is gripped, free to notice the dirt on the sidewalk and the widening and receding horizon simultaneously.
Fisch’s installations are led by juxtapositions of shapes and materials, fabric and tar, iron rod and gravel, concrete, industrialized silicone and natural stone. Playing with construction materials becomes a poetic, symbolic unit that stores longing and reflections about the local Israeli place and person. The toughness in fragility or the fragility in toughness. How the strong structure that can carry tremendous weight becomes ethereal and delicate, and how the same drawing language moves between the construction of lines carried through the space and the lines in the video that pierce the skin with a permanent ink drawing.
The exhibition paints a picture of a city, whether Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or Haifa, as a private and personal space, a social and ideological encounter. And alongside these, it also stands as an aesthetic and symbolic question. As an inner city that is an excuse or a space that allows a multi-layered, peeling, breathing, touching, and hurting search.
In the encounter between them, it seems that something of the spirit that imbues Noy’s scenes as a shape on a stretched canvas, in the spectacular, rich and abundant worlds, is crystalized, focused and solidifies into a sculpture in Fisch’s hands. The shared bottom-up movement and the similar search for an alchemy of sorts, triggers an early memory of playing with letters. The space of the gallery and the viewer’s body become paper, and in the space in-between syllables conjures new words.
Translation: Maya Shimony